Ray by Ray: A Daughter’s Take on the Legend of Nicholas Ray

Three Rooms. May 2020. 336p. ISBN 9781941110874. pap. $20. FILM
Nicholas Ray (1911–79), the renegade Hollywood director of In a Lonely Place and Rebel Without a Cause, influenced everything from the French New Wave to modern film noir. In this intimate blend of memoir and biography, his daughter, Nicca, a filmmaker and writer, explores her father’s complex life and artistic legacy as well as their own complicated relationship and his impact on her life. The elder Ray’s life spanned a fascinating time in Hollywood; he directed films starring Humphrey Bogart, James Dean, and Robert Mitchum, and early on in his career, he enjoyed stints in theater and radio and worked with folk music historian Alan Lomax. He also contended with addictions to gambling and drugs, which impacted his ability to work later in life. Over several years, Nicca interviewed dozens of her father’s companions and associates, including actor Dennis Hopper, screenwriter Budd Schulberg, and director Bernardo Bertolucci, learning much about him along the way—Nicholas was often absent from her life and died when she was 17. The author weaves her own life story and coming of age into the work, resulting in a raw and honest narrative.
VERDICT This contemplative, deeply personal portrait of both Rays will appeal to readers interested in mid-century Hollywood.

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